Ok so the title may have scooped me a bit, but I couldn’t help myself. Mr. Frugalwoods and I are thrilled to announce that we’re expecting our first baby, a girl, this coming November. Babywoods and I (not to mention Mr. FW and Frugal Hound) are doing well, despite some entertaining first trimester food cravings, aversions, sleep problems, and morning sickness.
(Disclaimer: If, like Frugal Hound, you’re not into reading about baby-related stuff, never fear, we’re not morphing into a parenting blog and we’ll be back to our typical frugal weirdo antics in our next post.)
While I’m elated to share this news with you all, I want to be transparent about the circumstances surrounding our pregnancy. This is partly because I’ve had this post written in my mind for over a year now, and partly because I anticipated writing a different post entirely on this topic–one that didn’t result in the news of a baby and that was instead centered on our battle with infertility. It would be easy for me to gloss over our trials these past 15 months, but that feels disingenuous. And so in the interest of honesty, I’m taking a slight detour from our standard personal finance fare today to share the backstory of our conception.
I think our experience wasn’t all that different from many other couples, but I also think that infertility–whether temporary as ours was, or permanent–isn’t a topic most people feel comfortable talking about, despite the fact that one in eight couples grapples with it in some form. In the absence of those stories, we as a society are left hearing only merry tales of couples who are gleefully three months pregnant, as I am today.
Just as Mr. Frugalwoods and I debunk the taboos that surround discussing money, financial independence, and the ethos of the frugal weirdo, I want to do my own little part to erase the stigma associated with infertility. My friend Shannon, from Financially Blonde, was very open with me about her journey to becoming pregnant with her son Will, and I was deeply grateful for her thoughts and wisdom. I felt so alone in this process and it was reassuring to hear from someone else who’d had a difficult road to conception.
We’re Not In Charge
Mr. Frugalwoods and I have been trying to get pregnant since February 2014, which for those of you familiar with either math or fertility, is a long time. Thus, the bewilderment and thrill we felt in March 2015 when we got our very first positive pregnancy test was truly shocking.
As many couples do, we waited to start trying until we felt we were emotionally and financially mature enough to handle bringing a new life into the world. It’s not a decision we made lightly and it’s one we discussed for years (yes, years) before taking the plunge.
Mr. FW and I are legendary for deliberating the pros and cons of every major decision we make and we couldn’t imagine a more profound one than having a baby. After all, you can always sell a house, pay off debt, get rid of ugly furniture, extract yourself from a bad relationship, or otherwise put wrong decisions largely behind you. But a baby? There’s no going back.
Given the permanency of this decision, we wanted to ensure that our relationship could withstand the torrents of parenthood, that our finances could endure the tsunami of childrearing, and that our early retirement homestead dream would accommodate the sticky hands and demands of children. Fear not, frugal weirdo friends, Babywoods is very much a planned part of our financial independence timeline and she doesn’t change our fall 2017 early retirement date or homestead intentions. In fact, part of the motivation behind decamping to a homestead is our desire to raise our kids in a laid-back, nature-infused setting. Rest assured, we’re well aware that our lives will change in unknown, all-encompassing, and life-altering ways after she’s born–we have no delusions to the contrary–but the core of who we are and what we aspire to will remain.
Waiting until we were 29 and 30 to start trying for a baby felt like a reasonable balance between maturity and youth. We want to be young parents and we want to have more than one child, all of which indicated to us we’d better get going. Since we’ll be 31 and 32 when Babywoods is born, we’re glad we started when we did.
I’ve talked before about how I don’t think I would’ve made a very good mother at age 24 when we were first married, and I believe that even more keenly now that we’re in the thick of baby preparations. I wasn’t secure in my own convictions, or confident in my disregard for the judgements of others, or aware of what I wanted to achieve in life. Having clarity on those elements of my own life gives me the assurance that we’ll be able to raise our daughter in a stable, loving home.
But the reality is, of course, that we can’t control biology, nature, or God’s plans and so, after our years of careful consideration and analysis to select the perfect month in which to conceive a child, it then took us 13 more months to actually get pregnant.
Nothing has taught me more about patience, faith, and our sheer inability to control the world. Mr. FW and I are what you might call “in charge” type of people–we like to organize, orchestrate, engineer, and otherwise spreadsheet our lives. We crave efficiency, optimization, and clever timing. This is really useful for a financial independence trajectory, but not so much for a baby. Indeed, Babywoods had other ideas. She has already taught us the principle lesson of parenthood: we’re no longer in charge.
The Journey To Babywoods
On average, couples who are young and healthy (as Mr. FW and I are) can expect to conceive a baby within three to six months of trying–a full year is considered the outer max for women under 35. In light of just how young and healthy we are, my doctor became concerned when we hadn’t conceived within the 6 month timeframe and she began a battery of tests on us both.
This was our first inkling of just how involved baby-making can become and just how many medical interventions there are for infertility. It wasn’t something we ever thought we’d need to navigate and I was gripped with an icy terror that we’d never be able to have biological children. We joked about having a roving band of greyhounds instead of kids and we talked seriously about adoption (of children, not dogs).
After our testing came back negative or inconclusive, my doctor prescribed Clomid, a fertility-enhancing drug. We weren’t delighted at the prospect of taking fertility medication and were apprehensive about the chance for multiples. But, we decided the risks were worth assuming and so I started my course of pills. After three consecutive months of Clomid, the maximum number allowed by my doctor, we still weren’t pregnant.
How could this be? We’d tried to do everything right! We started to reason with ourselves and the universe: here we are a loving, married couple who has carefully chosen to have children, with the financial and emotional resources to care for them and raise them on a homestead with both parents at home! I really started to feel sorry for myself and angry at the unfairness of the world. Not productive emotions, but, precisely what I felt nonetheless.
Mr. Frugalwoods thoughtfully reminded me of how incredibly fortunate we are and that maybe having children just wasn’t in our cards. He also pointed out that we still had options in light of the many fertility treatments that modern medicine offers. And so on month 12 of trying, we went to the fertility doctor since we were now officially diagnosed as “infertile.” Their waiting room is adjacent to the OB/GYN office and we glumly watched glowing pregnant ladies stroll in for their ultrasounds. Let’s just say it was a dark day.
The fertility doctor was optimistic about our prospects since, once again, he pointed out that we’re young and healthy. I was getting tired of this refrain about our youth and vitality since it didn’t seem to be helping in the Babywoods department one bit. The doctor assured us we’d get pregnant–which was exactly what we’d heard before the failed Clomid rounds–so we were less than enthused, but game to try anything.
He ordered another round of increasingly invasive tests, which would commence the next month. After that, we’d start IUI (intrauterine insemination), which essentially involves using all of our own parts, but conducting the conception via medical intervention in the doctor’s office. Clearly, we’d reached the super romantic stage of baby-making ;). But at this point, we couldn’t care less how it happened.
In addition to pursing the modern medicine route for fertility, I read about (and tried many) herbal-related, food-related, activity-related, prayer-related, and alternative medicine-related methods of increasing the chances for conception. Alas, nothing worked.
Enter Health Insurance
Once the words IUI were on the table, we started researching our insurance coverage for such treatments and came up with an almost unbelievable discovery: our insurance actually covers fertility treatments. This is ridiculously rare and we felt beyond fortunate. It was yet another time in our lives when we realized that privilege plays a huge role in our successes.
The great irony is that we could easily afford to pay for fertility treatments out-of-pocket, whereas for many couples, those costs (which are usually in the low to mid five-figures) are a debt sentence or entirely out of reach. It almost seems unfair that since Mr. FW has a really well-paying job, he has premiere health insurance, and so we’d be off the hook for the costs. A classic case of the rich get richer.
A Surprising Result
Armed with this new knowledge, we settled in to wait for our appointed fertility testing dates and, lo and behold, we got pregnant on our own. We were so stunned by the positive test result (purchased frugally at the Dollar Store, might I add) that I called my doctor in utter disbelief and she told me to come in for a blood test “at my earliest convenience.” You better believe my earliest convenience was that very moment.
A nurse called later that day to confirm I was really and truly pregnant; Mr. FW and I were in a state of wonder. It seems rather serendipitous that we got pregnant during the month while waiting to start our fertility treatments. The coincidence is astounding. I think I was supposed to learn the lesson of patience, which is something I’ve struggled with for years. And, I finally feel like I have just the slightest notion of what that word means.
Given how long it took us to conceive, Mr. FW and I spent the first trimester (typically the most delicate and precarious part of a pregnancy as it’s when miscarriage is most common) in a state of constant fear that we’d lose the baby.
But with each passing week, and each of our three ultrasounds that indicated a healthy, viable, heart-beating fetus, we breathed a sigh of relief. This past Friday, we received the results of a cutting-edge blood test (which again, our amazing insurance covers) that told us Babywoods’ gender, and more importantly, that she tests negative for a slew of grave and life-threatening abnormalities and birth defects. Another deep sigh of relief and gratitude. Today marks the official end of our first trimester and the jubilation we feel defies description. I still walk around almost astonished that we’re pregnant with a healthy baby that’s our very own!
Our Process Was Easy
While our journey to pregnancy was traumatic for us personally, it’s nothing compared to what many couples endure in their infertility challenges. Ours had a simple, happy, inexpensive ending that only cost us a few office visit, and meagre prescription medication, co-pays. Thanks to our robust healthcare, I estimate we spent less than $100 during our year of trying to get pregnant. This amount is absurdly small in comparison to the thousands of dollars infertile couples shell out for medication, testing, IUI, IVF, alternative medicine, and sometimes adoption.
As if the financial burden weren’t enough, I can only surmise that the emotional agony is profound. To have one’s own children feels like a biological rite of passage and to be denied that basic human function feels like the worst violation of justice. Mr. FW and I only scratched the surface of coping with our emotions around infertility and so I won’t pretend to know what it feels like to endure years of infertility and medical interventions. My heart goes out to couples who desperately want children but aren’t having success conceiving.
What I’ve Learned
This experience has given me insight into the concept of not taking anything in life for granted and made me grateful for every single moment of nausea, food aversion, and exhaustion brought by these first three months of pregnancy. I’ve learned not to ask couples when they’re going to have kids, or to trumpet that children are the most amazing blessing in the world, or to condescend towards those without kids, or to even assume that everyone wants children.
We’re all on our own paths and to judge, or presume, or boast isn’t helpful to anyone. I’ve vowed not to complain publicly about any discomforts in my pregnancy because I don’t know who might be painfully envious. I know that during our 13 months of trying, I felt like running into the bathroom and crying every single time I saw a pregnant lady (and on several occasions I did). I also felt like punching people in the nose who intimated that Mr. FW and I “better get started soon.”
Recognizing that everyone is on their own unique journey and that we can’t begin to imagine the hidden joys or devastations in their lives is a valuable perspective for me to internalize. I hope I’ll carry this compassion, awareness, and empathy forward with me and teach it to our daughter.